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2016 NFL Draft: Notre Dame Linebacker Jaylon Smith

Could Jaylon Smith still tempt teams in to taking him early in the 1st round despite a traumatic knee injury?

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Physical stature

Height: 6'2"

Arm Length: 33"

Weight: 223 lbs

Hands: 9 ½"

Pro Day results (Courtesy of


Combine Results


Season Recap

Jaylon Smith is coming off of another All-American season at Notre Dame. He started all 39 games in his three years at Notre Dame, and hardly ever came off the field. He is only the second player to win the high school and college Butkus award for nations best linebacker (some guy named Manti Te'o was the first). Smith lead the Irish in tackles with 113, and 9 of those were for a loss. He only recorded 4.5 sacks in his entirety at Notre Dame. That number might surprise/make scouts shy away from Smith, but Notre Dame didn't really use him as a pass rusher. This is an area that Smith will need to work and improve upon at the next level.

Smith ended his Notre Dame career in one of the most heartbreaking ways. While it was known that the Fiesta Bowl was going to be Smith's last game wearing the golden helmet, his time was cut short on a devastating knee injury. Smith tore both his ACL and MCL after he was pushed by an Ohio State Buckeye early in the first quarter of the Fiesta Bowl. Despite this injury, and his assuredly drop in draft stock, Smith surprised no one by still opting out of his final season of eligibility to go to the NFL draft.


Ike Taylor: Buffalo Bills (#19 overall)

Bucky Brooks: Washington Redskins (#21 overall)

Chad Reuter: New York Jets (#20 overall)

CBS Sports

Rob Rang: New York Jets (#20 overall)

Dane Brugler: Oakland Raiders (#14 overall)

Pete Prisco: Atlanta Falcons (#17 overall)

Will Brinson: Seattle Seahawks (#26 overall)

Sports Illustrated

Chris Burke: Atlanta Falcons (#17 overall)

I'm about to say one of the most obvious things: if it wasn't for the knee injury against Ohio State, Jaylon Smith would almost be a sure fire top 10 pick if not top 5. Now draft analysts aren't sure where to put Smith at because of that injury. They all say generally the same thing about Smith's pro career is based on how he heals from that injury. Anyone who watches a game of his knows how talented this guy is. I'll be honest, when first looking up projections for Smith, I was worried that I might see most of the analysts putting him out of the first round. I'm glad to see that people aren't writing him off because of the injury, and still are taking his immense skill-set into account.

In my very biased/bullish opinion of Smith, I still think a team should take him in the top 10. I think if he is taken out of the top 10 (All of these projections have him outside of the top 15 except for one), than that team will get a steal. I fully believe he will bounce back from this injury and go on to have a tremendous career. Then again, I'm just a blogger and not running an NFL franchise.


Scouts love Jaylon's athleticism and just his physique in general. His body fat percentage is nothing short of incredible. Smith's explosiveness and quick lateral agility is highly coveted as a linebacker as well. He can drop his hips and change direction on a dime. His speed helps him get to the edge quickly to track down and stop running backs, something that's going to be very important for him in the NFL.

One of the bigger strengths that Smith brings to the table is that he can rush the passer/quickly get in the backfield, but also his ability to play out in man coverage very well. One play that comes to mind supporting the latter of this is the game against Southern Cal when he was running step for step with the wide receiver down the seam and broke up the pass play. His versatility is going to help his draft status as he will be a good fit for both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses.


Scouts want to see Jaylon be a little more technically sound in his tackling. Going back and looking at film of Jaylon, you can notice that he "spears" and "lunges" more on tackles than he does wrap up and bring guys down. Also, when in pass coverage, he'll need to work on locating the ball a little more.

Player Comparisons

Derrick Johnson


"He reminds me so much of DJ (Derrick Johnson) when he came out. Same frame, same speed and same playmaking ability. Both of those guys are made for the pro game." --­ Former AFC defensive coach